Once upon a time, U.S. politics was characterized by perfect comity and civility between the two major parties, leading members of which, from the president on downward, were always respectful and polite to one another, even when their differences of opinion were at their sharpest.
Just kidding. You knew as soon as you read that paragraph that it was a fairy tale, didn’t you?
In fact, as Joanne B. Freeman shows in “The Field of Blood: Violence in Congress and the Road to Civil War” (2018), the hatred and bitterness between the parties, and even, at times, within them, 200 years ago was even worse than it is today and often led to violence long before it culminated in the mass violence of the Civil War.
And yet belief in the fairy tale—or at least the pretense of belief—has never entirely gone away, as is indicated by the designation of “honorable,” which is still proudly but automatically applied to members of Congress no matter how corrupt, weaselly, or dishonorable they may in fact be.
“Honor,” as people understood the term in the early days of the Republic, was something that you owed even to the bitterest of enemies—at least in theory; at least if you aspired to be a man of honor yourself.
At the height of honor’s influence on American politics, in the years after the Civil War, that’s actually how you showed you were a man of honor: by being large-minded enough to honor your enemies even though you had so lately been fighting them to the death.
That’s the major reason why we still have U.S. military bases named for Confederate generals. They may have taken up arms against the federal government, but they were still regarded by their contemporaries on the winning side not as traitors but as great American soldiers and men of honor like themselves, fighting for what they believed in.
That’s still how they were seen, overwhelmingly by partisans of North and South alike, within living memory.
It tells you something about our own time that the names of those bases are soon to be changed, just as statues and memorials to the Confederacy are disappearing everywhere throughout the Southern states, which so recently were proud to remember the honor of the Lost Cause and the great-grandfathers who fought for it, though few can have wished for a return of slavery.
But honor’s fairy tale now appears to be on its last legs, if it isn’t already gone completely.
I can’t help thinking that one thing that kept it going for so long was the awareness on the part of both parties that their exercise of power was always temporary. Sooner or later (hopefully, later), the party out of power would win an election and the party in power would lose one.
When that happened, the former could be expected to treat the latter as it had been treated when the shoe was on the other foot. That acted as a natural restraint on the partisan tendency of those in power to ride roughshod over the loyal opposition.
In such a case, “honor” was still, as it had so often been in the past, the pleasing face of self-interest.
My apologies for the history lesson, but it seems to me a necessary preliminary to any discussion of the FBI raid—though the media don’t want to call it a raid anymore—on Donald Trump’s Florida home at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach.
At the time of writing, it’s still unclear what the feds were after and what, if anything, they found there. None of that matters though, since the media are predictably obsessed with speculation on such matters, and on how any information thus obtained will slot into previous and ongoing attempts by Democrats to build a criminal case against the former president.
The other angle being pursued by the media is the fault they see as accruing to Republicans and Trump supporters for being angry about the raid and threatening to retaliate when they again return to power.
Assuming they ever do.
For that, I’m tempted to think, is where the real significance of the raid lies.
You might think, that is, that after the fiasco of Russiagate and the illegal and improper practices of prominent members of the bureau that were thereby revealed, the Biden Department of Justice would be particularly assiduous about efforts to repair its tattered reputation.
They might even have wanted to make a show of protecting Supreme Court justices whose lives were threatened or investigating criminal attacks on churches and pregnancy crisis centers after the court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade.
Such gestures of non-partisanship could have made them look good in the eyes of that half of the country now disposed to mistrust them.
Americans of both parties must want to believe that federal law enforcement is non-partisan and non-political, concerned only with impartial enforcement of the country’s laws.
After all that we have learned about the FBI in the past several years, there was zero chance that the Mar-a-Lago raid would be seen as anything but a partisan exercise that wasn’t only of a piece with Russiagate but also closely coordinated with other and continuing Democratic legal and quasi-legal proceedings against the former president by the House’s Jan. 6 committee and New York Attorney General Letitia James.
But the FBI didn’t care.
Nor did Attorney General Merrick Garland or anyone else at the Department of Justice.
Nor did a single one of the Democrats and “Never Trumpers” who have been denigrating him for years take the opportunity to display a sense of fairness and non-partisanship by speaking up on behalf of fair and respectful treatment, or at least the appearance of some, even for someone they obviously hate.
Do they all know something we don’t know?
Likewise, Garland can’t have failed to foresee the promise by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) that he would himself come under investigation by a Republican-headed committee of the House, should the Republicans return to power after the November elections.
It doesn’t seem to have bothered him.
For some reason, the Democrats and their FBI allies don’t appear to be worried about a Republican victory in November that everybody was expecting up until the day before yesterday.
There are two possible explanations for such confidence.
One is Democratic hubris. Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, they simply can’t believe that anyone so righteous as themselves, so obviously on “the right side of history,” could lose their majorities to representatives of her “basket of deplorables” from flyover country.
The other is that, with the changes in election laws and their enforcement during the 2020 election and others that have been made or mooted since, all tending toward the loosening of election security and providing opportunities for artificially inflating their own vote totals, they have so arranged things to their own advantage that they need never fear losing another election.
I myself tend toward the former explanation, but there must be millions and millions who already believe that the Democrats have rigged the system against them and who will more and more incline toward the latter.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.